Full-time job, housework, grocery shopping, young family, elderly care, entertaining, arts and culture, charity drives, sports, weekend escapades… are you juggling all this in an 18-hour-plus day, followed by
a few hours of fitful sleep before it starts all over again tomorrow at the crack of dawn?
Can’t remember last time you had some ‘me-time’?
Actually, can’t even remember what ‘me-time’ means?
You may be suffering from Superwoman Syndrome, a behavioural condition that mostly affects western countries’ women, but it is spreading to the developing world too.
It is the compulsion and the pressure for women, usually aged 30 to 50, despite more and more adolescents already feeling they’re running a rat-race in high school, to having and being it all – career, family, health & fitness, social life – without wanting – or affording – to delegate to family members or to paid help.
A superwoman is different from, and perhaps busier than, a career woman: the latter, in fact, is a woman who pursues any profession until not long ago regarded as the boys’ exclusive playground, a woman who commits to working long hours, perhaps travelling and commuting, but she either relinquishes family life for it, or hires a small army of professionals to run her household while she focuses on work.
Conversely, a superwoman is, or feels she is, a one-man, ehm, one-woman, band who reckons she can, and will, control it all, juggle it all. Her mantra “If others can, I can too. And better.” She might have been raised by empowering feminist role models or on the contrary escaped an abusive, dysfunctional or simply over-traditional family background, or she may want to emulate somewhat unrealistic images portrayed in the media.
The unhealthy strife to be perfect in every situation may build up to unsustainable levels when the superwoman fails to meet her own expectations. Beware I said ‘her own expectations’, because most superwomen are responsible for setting their bar too high, while their loved ones can see they’re overdoing it and warn them to slow down, and yet superwomen might interpret this as condescendence, criticism or veiled attempts to suggest they are failing at this modern ‘glass-ceiling-crashing nonsense’ and that a woman’s real place remains in the kitchen!
So ask yourself: do you constantly give without anything in return?
- Do you attend to needs of others before your own?
- Are you a people pleaser even if it makes you unhappy?
- Do you throw or attend parties you feel alone at?
- Do you feel exhausted and anxious?
- Do you find yourself to mentally dismiss, disparage or belittle stay-at-home mums and homemakers in general, even if they are family?
- Do you often compare yourself to other working mothers or colleagues?
- Do you critically compare your kids’ milestones to those of other children their age?
- Do you help your kids in educational tasks like dressing up or homework, just to speed up their getting ready in the morning or for bed?
- Are you driven by a competitive edge even in casual situations like holidays, sports’ days, family picnics, or corporate team-building events?
- Are your meal plans bordering eating disorders, including orthorexia?
- When was the last time you were satisfied with your accomplishments at work or at home?
- Do you tend to sceptically shun compliments on a job well done but you are overly sensitive and receptive to those about your physical appearance?
- Do you pay too much attention to gossip and judgement?
- Are you judgemental?
- Do you make a big fuss of a bad hair day?
Furthermore, if you are irritable, incensed, indecisive, unable to concentrate, subject to mood swings and negative thoughts, and if you lack sense of humour, it may be time to slow down and admit that Rome wasn’t built in a single day – or by a single individual.
When your body cannot keep up with your schedule demands, it might ring alarm bells through cephalea, elevated blood pressure, shortness of breath, palpitations, insomnia, restless sleep, loss of appetite, sudden weight gain or loss, hair loss, brittle fingernails, dry and itchy skin, rashes, hyperhidrosis, blackheads, dull complexion, yellowing sclera, bloodshot eyes, dark circles, bleeding gums.
Sometimes it is difficult for clinicians to make the connection to stress, if patients are in denial about being under excess stress, and truly believe they’re breezing through life ‘just peachy’.
Many superwomen find their quick-fix in caffeine brewing or pill popping. Prescription drugs misuse is harmful when it neutralises the symptoms but not the causes of chronic fatigue or mental health acute disorders, and it leads to blurred circadian rhythms, irregular heartbeat and ultimately to self-bestowed cardiac disease.
Rather than indulging in overloading your bloodstream with chemicals, you must take stock of your life priorities and exercise an energetic spring cleaning, perhaps with the support of your family, friends and therapist.
When FOMO (fear of missing out) and perfectionism turn into addiction, you are the sole, or almost the sole, healer of your soul, through acceptance that you are only human, so you cannot do everything perfectly, but you must focus on what is really making you tick and life worth living in a serene, personalised-paced way.
Your decalogue to a balanced lifestyle:
- Let go of perfectionism: you are not auditioning for Mary Poppins’ role in a panto.
- Make your goals realistic. Tell the difference between wants and needs.
- De-clutter, materially and emotionally.
- Learn to say no: nobody is expendable, but nobody is indispensable either.
- Learn to delegate: it is ok, indeed brave, to ask for help.
- Train yourself to assert your own priorities, to express your thoughts and feelings, instead of complying or abiding to others’.
- Build a support network with your relatives or other working mothers. Sisters do it for themselves. And for each other.
- Take time off to do what you really want with whom you really want.
- Make regular time to enjoy the company of a ‘slow-living’ friend.
- Embrace JOMO, the joy of missing out. And toasting to me-time!
This article aims at being informative only, with no medical or diagnostic pretenses. Consult your GP if you suspect you or a relative may be suffering from the condition here described.